Iowa continues to overcome the injury bug and they suffered another setback early in the game against Northwestern when Jordan Canzeri had to leave the game with a leg injury. Canzeri had rushed the ball 43 times for 256 yards the week before so that was a lot of production leaving the game almost immediately. With LeShun Daniels still sidelined with an injury as well, it came down to the reserves in Akrum Wadley and Derrick Mitchell.
Wadley rose to the occasion with 204 yards and four touchdowns while Mitchell took the hand off 10 times for 79 yards and a score of his own.
Mitchell had been bit by the injury bug already this year as well and had an off the field situation that prevented him from dressing against Iowa State in Ames early in the year. His battles are now aside and he answered the call on Saturday.
"Injuries are apart of football," he shared. "They're not hard to overcome. It's just about going in there and getting healthy and staying at it. It's about overcoming the obstacles."
The Hawkeye running back was glad to have the opportunity to show what he could do on the football field.
"We have been working for this all season," Mitchell said afterwards. "We've been doing this since January. It's just about going in there, getting a couple plays in, and getting hte confidence. Running behind the offensive line, they did a great job today, and running behind them helped in giving me the confidence today. Akrum Wadley played big, I can't forget about him. I just tried to do whatever I could."
It was the first extended action of the year for the former wideout and getting into a rhythm was paramount to his success.
"Yeah, it is (helpful to get in a rhythm)," Mitchell admitted following the victory in Evanston. "It just shows what I can do. It shows how good our offensive line is. When you can get 30-40 carries in between running backs, it means the offensive line is doing something right and the game plan is right."
The biggest concern for Wadley and Mitchell has been gaining the trust of the coaching staff. They haven't had a ton of opportunities to showcase their skills in live game action but when they have, hanging onto the ball had been an issue. Neither coughed the ball up on Saturday.
"We've been working on (ball security) since the beginning of the season," Mitchell pointed out. "We've been doing that since spring football. It's been an emphasis, not turning the football over. Holding onto the football in tight spaces is something we work on. It's just playing football."
Head coach Kirk Ferentz immediately alluded to his two running backs securing the ball throughout the game afterwards.
"Well, they didn't fumble did they?," Ferentz stated at his press conference. "One did come out but it was after the touchdown. It's a real positive step. (Akrum Wadley and Derrick Mitchell) were both on my scrimmage list for the bye week. We'll count those snaps today as possibly part of that. My biggest concern with those guys has been ball security. They stepped up big. They got caught in the wave with the rest of the team. We needed them badly with Jordan (Canzeri) going down. I'm real proud of their efforts. It's scary to think what would have happened if they didn't play the way that they did."